Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Thursday hailed his country’s relationship with Washington state as he met with Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday.
“We’re both very strongly engaged on issues of climate change, on issues of openness to trade, on leadership on refugees as well,” said Trudeau at the start of his meeting with Inslee at the Renaissance Seattle Hotel. “And an understanding that diversity can be a real source of strength.”
Inslee, who planned to leave later Thursday to join a trade mission to Mexico, called his meeting with Trudeau “fitting.”
“We share an incredible commitment to defeating climate change, and a recognition that we can grow our economies while doing that,” Inslee said. “And it is a great pleasure we have a national leader on the North American continent who is committed to that.”
The comments came before a private meeting scheduled to last 30 minutes, though the two leaders wound up speaking for about 45 minutes, according to Inslee spokeswoman Jaime Smith.
Outside the hotel, about a dozen demonstrators protested Trudeau and Canada’s extraction of oil from Alberta tar sands, chanting, “Water is life.”
“We’re fighting the tar sands, we’re fighting pipelines like the DAPL, the Dakota Access Pipeline,” said Janene Hampton, a 45-year-old Redmond resident who said she had spent time at the Standing Rock pipeline protests. “We’re protecting our water, we’re protecting our people, we’re protecting our children.”
The two progressive leaders were expected to talk about business, trade and transportation, according to a news release by Inslee’s office.
Last year, Inslee and officials from British Columbia — where Trudeau once taught math and French before entering politics — pledged to build closer relationships between their regional economies, which both include booming high-tech sectors.
As Inslee put it at the time: “There’s something special in the water of the Salish Sea.”
With wildfire season approaching, the governor and prime pinister also expected to confer on climate change.
Both leaders have experienced firsthand the ravages of summer wildfires, which experts say are at least partly due to climate change.
Blazes last year forced tens of thousands of Canadians to flee their homes.
Canada is Washington state’s second largest destination for exports behind China, according to the state’s Commerce Department.
Bilateral trade between the Washington state and Canada totaled $19.8 billion last year, with $12.8 billion of that accounting for Washington imports from Canada.
Trudeau arrived in the state Wednesday to attend and speak at Microsoft’s CEO Summit in Redmond.
The event, which was closed to the public and media, focused on cybersecurity and the space race. Trudeau’s office said he was the first sitting head of government or state invited to address the summit and attended so he could promote Canada’s technology industry.
The Thursday morning meeting came amid the backdrop of President Donald Trump, who has questioned the science behind climate change and has a pledged an America-first agenda.
Trump has promised to build a wall along the Mexican border and until a few weeks ago, had threatened to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement, of which Canada is a member.